The 5 Intentions of a Parent Searching for a School Online

by Jeremy Merkle, Director of Digital Marketing, Truth Tree


parent searching for school - digital marketing - Truth Tree

When parents go to their favorite search engine and type in "private school," what are their intentions?


At Truth Tree, we have found that intent is broken into five categories:

  1. Finding schools

  2. Learning about schools

  3. Comparing schools

  4. Trying to enroll at a school

  5. Looking for your school by name

Understanding where parents are in this intent cycle allows you to proactively design, re-design, and execute your search engine marketing strategy.


Let's look at the 5 types of search intent, what they mean for schools, and where to focus your tactics based on the parents' goals.


1. Informational Intent: This is usually where parents begin their search. They may be window shopping, "kicking the tires," or intense research mode. People in this stage usually have minimal knowledge of the private schools in their area, who they serve, and their philosophy of education. To find this information, they ask broad questions like, what private schools are in my area? or best private schools in San Diego. Tip: Creating content that will help parents during their search journey is an excellent tactic. They just got started and likely don't know all the ins and outs of the admission process. So a blog you produce could be entitled, 5 Things to Know When Searching for a Private School Something like this is sure to get a click from many of those in the informational intent stage.


2. Discovery Intent: Now families have the basics to run refined searches. They've got the vernacular and buzzwords ready to plug in to their favorite search engine. Parents will also include specifics about their wants and needs for their child. Examples in this intent stage may include, Montessori school with a middle school or private Jewish school with aftercare that accepted students with ADHD. These are what we call the "known, unknown" parents in your area who could be a good fit for your school but don't know who you are and who you serve…yet. Tip: Long-tail keywords tied directly to responsive search ads or an array of specific expanded text ads will make your ad stand out in the crowd. If someone searches for a private school for girls that is STEM-focused and your ad says, All-Girls STEM School, you’re getting that click!


3. Comparative Intent: Now families have their list of potential schools or at very least the kind of school(s) that interest them. They want to know specifics about what makes your ethos or your specific school better than the competition.. Searches may resemble, All boy's school vs. coed, or Are progressive ed. teachers better than traditional ones? Tip: Use the comparative nature of online shopping to your advantage. If someone types ins, which is better, all-boys or coed school? Point it to an ad that reads:


4. Transactional Intent: Parents are searching with the intent to enroll (if you're the right school). However, we all know there are steps before that can happen.Searches in this stage are based on where they are in the process. It may include what private schools in Pittsburgh have open houses coming up or what the Catholic school application deadline in New Orleans? Tip: Now is the time for an all-out launch of event-based ads and ones with a strong call to action. If they search for private school open house, hit them with Visit us for an admission event September 21 before applying, inquire today, or even apply now.


5. Navigational Intent: This can happen anywhere in the intent cycle. It is where someone is searching for your school, specifically by name. In most cases, it is a current or past member of the community (parent, student, alum, etc.). If it's a prospective parent or student, even better because they want to learn more about your school or take action to move into or through the admission funnel. Tip: Every few days or weeks, run a search for your school. Two things to watch out for, 1- A school vulturing your brand and showing ads above your organic listing. 2- Less than flattering search engine results pages (SERP). This is why creating relevant content is crucial. If someone types in Truth Tree Academy, you want most, if not all, first page results to lead the user to a page or site you control.

Through a multilayered, omnichannel approach, your school can position itself in front of each of these types of users at every step in their search journey.


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